As obvious as it is that chemical pesticide and fertilizer are harmful for health and the environment, it is also clear that the alternative which is mainly manual labor is more costly. SEKEM now starts to focus on working with natural predators in order to control pests.
Is pesticide doing more good than bad?
The role of pesticide is to eliminate the harmful pests, insects, and weeds. Although it is true that chemical pesticides are efficient in doing so, the fact remains that they also destroy many useful insects on which crops and the ecosystem rely. Hence, using pesticides at the end leads to more problems which are catastrophic in the long run; such as climate change, land degradation, water and air pollution, reduced biodiversity, and health problems. So, what’s the alternative?
The cost efficient and natural alternative
Instead of seeking a solution through manufactured chemicals, the answer lies in nature itself – predators is the answer!
Predators are simply organisms which feed on other organisms. Through science and research, one can determine which predator is needed for each crop to feed on the harmful pests, and also in which amount. This process doesn’t only eliminate the problem, but also helps restore the balance of the ecosystem. Also, economically, predators are more cost efficient than manual labor and even chemical pesticide. In general, existing producers of predators and parasitoids in Egypt cover around 3% of the demand which is not enough to cover the organic cultivated crops.
See a need… fill a need
SEKEM, in collaboration with Heliopolis University is now breeding predators and parasitoids for bio-control. This season, Trichogramma (the most important parasitoids worldwide) mass reared in a predatory lab located at SEKEM Farm and covers approximately 1,000 feddan (0.42 hectares) of cotton. The parasitoid does very efficiently control the cotton leaf worm (Spodoptera Exigua) and bollworms of cotton, which are a huge problematic pests affecting the cotton cultivation in Egypt. Trichogramma is also applied on tomato fields (open field crop) and reduced the infection ratio of Tuta Absoluta (a very harmful pest that destroys tomato cultivation) by 25 parasitoid per square meter every 15 days. Controlling Tuta absoluta by chemical pesticides results in several problems such as the development of resistance in pests.
SEKEM already started to work with predators in 2009 but had to stop the production and research again in 2011 in the context of the Egyptian revolution. Now, in cooperation with Heliopolis University the project is re-launched and wants to contribute to the reduction of chemical pesticide usage by offering alternative solutions.